Abortions and Crime
Durian Season and a Kingfisher
The durians are dropping and so is the price however the named varieties like Red Prawn are still too expensive so with only a few exceptions I’ve been eating the village variety durian aka “Kampung Durian” in Malaysia or “Durian Baan” in Thailand. The price of these has fallen to around 10MYR, 80THB, or 2.30USD a kg which is considered cheap in Malaysia and is about as low of a price you will find in the city. Just be sure to check carefully for any holes otherwise you might find an unwanted guest in your durian.
Paederus dermatitis – Rove Beetle Rash
Some species of rove beetle have a potent toxin called pederin in their hemolymph, which is like insect blood, and although these ant-like beetles don’t bite or sting if you squeeze one or even wipe one off of your face or neck, perhaps while you’re asleep, you could end up with an extremely itchy and painful rash. These insects are common in Penang especially in high rise buildings. The best thing you can do is place screens on your windows because if you don’t they will be attracted to the light and fly into your home. On the bright side pederin is being researched for its potential to slow the growth of cancerous tumors which just goes to show you how much we still have to learn from all the insects, plants, and other life we are causing to go extinct before we have a chance to research it. Let’s all do a better job at wasting less and conserving more in hopes of slowing down this sixth mass extinction that we are causing.
Happy New Year
I hope your 2022 is off to a happy and healthy start!
The Creek Next to My House
Last night I had a dream/nightmare that my little house got washed away in a flood and it seemed as real as it gets. In my dream I opened my front door to find that my house with me in it was floating in the middle of a rapidly flowing river. I was thinking that I had to get out fast because it would be bad if the house with me in it smashed into anything at that speed. Unfortunately I was around 50 meters away from the river bank. I was about to throw my computer and passport into a plastic bag and then into a backpack and make a swim for it. Fortunately at that time I woke up and realized it was a dream but it had been raining heavily and the creek next to my house was flooded.
If there was truly no international solution to secure Afghanistan and keep it out of the hands of religious extremists and as a result the U.S. felt it was best to withdraw then a half-competent administration could have at least negotiated and planned for a peaceful and non-dramatic withdrawal which would have at least kept the jail doors locked and the capital secure until all those desperately in need of evacuation were safely screened and flown out of the country. If a formal inquiry into this bipartisan incompetence isn’t conducted and nobody loses their job over this international tragedy and national disgrace it will be an injustice to the country and all those who served in Afghanistan including all those who died in the rush to get out and all those who will die because they were unable to get out.
I agree that the buck stops with Biden but just remember Trump with broad Republican support was the one that failed to negotiate a proper deal and instead gave the Taliban what they wanted like prisoner releases and an exit date while getting virtually nothing in return like a guarantee that they wouldn’t try taking over the country until after the U.S. had left and perhaps some basic human rights assurances that proved the Taliban weren’t the same barbarians who ruled the country before the U.S. and its close allies overthrew them. Maybe if Trump hadn’t been so “America First” he could have negotiated a security agreement with other countries that also have an interest in not seeing Afghanistan descend into chaos that would have at least kept it from becoming the next terrorist safe haven and human rights nightmare.
Update May 2022
The vaccine rollout has been slow and we’re still in the peak of the pandemic here in Thailand. For the most part I’m able to avoid people and feel safe where I’m at but I do wonder when I’ll be able to get vaccinated. Not only for my own personal safety but also so I don’t go around infecting others who could become seriously ill or even die like the millions of people who already have. The U.S. has quite the surplus of vaccines so why not send some to Thailand with a portion of them earmarked for U.S. citizens. Many of us would even be happy to pay for it ourselves. Hopefully Malaysia will open the borders to vaccinated travelers later this year like Thailand has just started doing in Phuket and when that happens I will hopefully have been vaccinated. As for now I have no problem waiting another few months while others at greater risk receive theirs first.
P.S. I caught a Tokay gecko and removed it from my kitchen. This is my third Tokay gecko capture and no it isn’t the one that was featured in my video. That one is still there and is allowed to stay because it’s on the other side of the creek and is not making a mess in my kitchen.
Quarantine + Quarantine
I along with every other foreigner on an expired social visit pass had to leave Malaysia by April 21st and since the land and sea borders were closed I had to fly for the first time in over five years. After preparing the necessary documents which included Covid health insurance, an alternative state quarantine hotel booking, and a negative PCR test within 72 hours of flight I went back to Thailand which required a 10 day quarantine in a Bangkok hotel which cost me over $100 a night, ouch. I’ve never even spent close to $100 on a room for one night. I’ve spent $100 for a week and I have even spent $100 for an entire month but I have never spent it for one night let alone ten of them in a row. However they did provide two nice custom prepared meals every day and I did have a large room with a balcony and a view of the city.
After finishing my 10 day quarantine I was able to leave the hotel room and return to my place in the rural south. However upon my return I learned that since I was coming from Bangkok I needed to quarantine for an additional 14 days. Fortunately I can do this second quarantine at home. I haven’t been back in the 15 months since the pandemic began and there was some flooding last December which washed away the front lawn along with the concrete footbridge that I used to enter and exit the property but after a weekend of house cleaning and yard-work it is now habitable despite the poor data reception. I am now looking forward to being home alone at the edge of a tropical mountain forest and eventually being able to return to a few of my favorite local orchards, markets, and scenic spots.
Eat Plants Move More
I posted a video on YouTube and a couple of photos on Instagram.
Stay Home, Save Lives
Today is day three of the movement control order here in Malaysia. It isn’t a complete lockdown but other than food and other essential supply runs it’s pretty much stay home or be fined if you’re stopped at a road block or caught elsewhere without a valid reason to be out. All schools and most businesses are now closed for at least 2 weeks however the supermarkets and wet markets remain open but goods may be limited and lines may be long. In addition to that the borders have been closed to any foreigners looking to enter and to any Malaysians looking to exit.
I considered taking the train and returning to my home in rural Thailand where I’d be as safe as I could be since I don’t have any people within a 100 meters of my house, the population density is very low, and we don’t have many people coming and going, however for the time being I decided to stay at the children’s shelter and continue to help out here. We are trying to keep life as normal, fun, and productive as possible for the 30 or so kids that live here despite the cancelation of most of the usual activities including all trips beyond the front gate.
Luckily we have enough space here for the kids to go outside and play in the morning and in the evening when it isn’t so terribly hot. As for the remainder of the day they use most of it for reading, studying, playing games, screen time, and some daily chores. A while back I downloaded some classic video games onto a few of the computers and got some USB controllers so now a whole new generation of kids are into Mario Kart 64, Donkey Kong Country, and some other classic Nintendo games. A couple of kids are even into Thundercats so yesterday I taught them some English while watching an episode.
P.S. It’s sad to see sick and abused chickens crammed into small cages still being brought into the wet market every morning for slaughter in inhumane and unsanitary conditions, no wonder why we keep having these zoonotic disease outbreaks. Moreover it’s sad to see so many irresponsible people still insisting on gathering for parties and prayers during this pandemic. Maybe if more people refrained from eating animals, shaking hands, gathering in large crowds, and flying unnecessarily we might have been able to avoid some of this mess. Now the goal is to keep it from spreading too rapidly and overwhelming the healthcare system so I hope everyone is doing their part to keep themselves safe and from becoming spreaders of the virus. Anyway I hope things get better soon and humanity learns a few lessons in the process.
Why Bernie? Because of the candidates left standing I feel that Bernie has the best chance of beating Trump and many polls agree with me. As for Biden he really seems like he’s in cognitive decline and not up for such a critical job moreover in addition to lacking the mental acumen needed to win the election and perform the job itself he doesn’t have the grassroots energy and movement behind him needed to defeat Trump.
Bernie had this grassroots energy and movement in 2016 and after four more years as an independent in the Senate where he continued to fight for what is right he has it again in 2020. Hopefully the mainstream media and democratic party establishment won’t get their way again like they did in 2016 and run a weaker candidate against Trump because if Biden does get the nomination I really fear that once on the debate stage Trump will make Joe Biden look old and weak like he did with Jeb Bush in 2016 and end up getting reelected.
I’m not willing to bet the farm on Bernie beating Trump but I do think he has a better chance than Biden or Bloomberg. Regardless of who comes out on top today and in the following primaries I hope everyone supports the nominee in any way they can and is sure to vote in November because life as we know it on planet earth might not be able to handle another 4 years of Trump. The climate crisis is now a climate emergency and the U.S. needs a president who is scientifically literate and can understand that the time for climate action is now.
P.S. The second and third video helps show why a wealth tax is needed to help provide health care and educational opportunities for those who are struggling to get by along with any kids they may have that are struggling to get by with them. Bernie’s wealth tax would start at 1% a year and only apply to the top 0.1% which means on those with a net worth of 32 million or more. I hate to break it to you but you ain’t in the top 0.1% and neither are your old parents who the media is trying to scare into opposing Bernie so don’t think he is going after all of your hard earned money. Please read more here. Tax on Extreme Wealth
Lunar New Year 2020
Happy Lunar New Year, I hope this post finds you healthy. It’s unfortunate that this Lunar New Year will be remembered by the emergence of another new zoonotic disease. I wrote a short post about zoonotic diseases here five years ago saying that disease surveillance in other animals is great but what we really need to focus on is keeping humans away from animals and the best way to do this is by protecting the world’s forests and to stop eating animals with an emphasis on those that have been raised, handled, and slaughtered in conditions that make the emergence of another zoonotic disease far more likely.
Speaking of old posts here is one that I wrote for Lunar New Year four years ago.
Depending on which calendar a society uses there are many different New Year’s and in some places more than one is celebrated. Calendars are generally one of three types: lunar, solar, or lunisolar. A lunar calendar is based on the revolution of the moon around the earth, a solar calendar is based on the revolution of the earth around the sun, and a lunisolar calendar is based on the moon’s revolution around the earth but includes a thirteenth month, aka leap month, every two or three years to keep it in sync with the earth’s revolution around the sun.
In lunisolar calendars like the Chinese calendar a leap month is periodically added so the months correspond with the seasons. It takes the moon around 29.5 days to revolve around the earth which means 12 lunar months is around 354 days and since it takes the earth around 365 days to revolve around the sun the months and seasons would drift apart around 11 days each year without this leap month. The New Year’s that takes place on January 1st is according to the Gregorian or Western calendar which is a solar calendar and the New Year’s that takes place today and every year on the new moon between late January and late February is according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar.
Happy New Year! 新年快樂！
Sheen = new 新
Nee-en = year 年
Kwai Luh = happy 快樂
Sheen Nee-en Kwai Luh! Try it if you encounter a Chinese speaking person this week because unlike the Western New Year Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival, is a multi-day mega holiday that doesn’t officially conclude until the 15th day which marks the first full moon of the new year and is celebrated as Lantern Festival.
Happy New Year 2020!
A new year and a new decade has arrived! I wish you all health and happiness and hope humanity will make better decisions this year, particularly this November in the U.S.. Five years ago when I first started this blog a couple of my first posts were about climate change. It’s been disappointing to see how things have played out these past 5 years, especially after all the hope that the Paris Agreement brought in late 2015. Hopefully humanity will unite and put things right this decade. Regardless we must all do our part to reduce our own environmental footprint while hopefully inspiring others to reduce theirs.
Last week the senior social worker at the children’s home and I took a few of the older kids to Thailand for the school holiday. It was a 7 hour drive from the children’s home in Malaysia to my home in Thailand. There we explored some of the pristine nature and mountain scenery before going to Krabi for some beach fun and hot springs relaxation. I took some footage of the trip and am putting together a short video so all the other kids can at least enjoy some of the scenery and laugh at some of the antics of those 5 days. Now all the kids are back including the ones who went to stay with relatives for the holiday and a new school year starts tomorrow.
P.S. Yesterday we came across a medium sized water monitor that was just sitting in the middle of the outermost lane of a very busy road. It didn’t have any visible damage but it was in shock and had some blood coming from its mouth so I suspect it was hit by a motorcycle. I tried to shoo it off the road but it wouldn’t move. There was no shoulder on the road and there were cars getting backed up behind us so I carefully grabbed it behind the head so it couldn’t bite me and lifted it up from the back so it couldn’t claw me and carried it to the car turned reptile ambulance. As soon as I got it into the car it started clawing and whipping its tail. I kept pressure on its back and turned my head so I didn’t get clawed or whipped in the face.
We took it back to the children’s home because that area is suitable for urban dwelling water monitors and we even have a couple that visit our compost pile from time to time. Once we arrived I took it out of the car the same way I had brought it in and carried it to a quiet place away from where all the kids go. I then placed the calmed down water monitor on the grass and as soon as I released his neck and stepped back he came back to life and bolted through a hole in the fence and into some shrubs and banana plants. I think he will survive but he wouldn’t have if he was left in the middle of that busy road. Unfortunately I had my hands full and was too worried about getting bit, clawed, and whipped in the face to get any photos.
Update: It’s been over a month since the reptile rescue. I know the water monitor is doing well because it has become a frequent visitor to the compost pile at the children’s home. How do I know it’s the same one? Because I haven’t seen any other water monitors near the compost pile over the past few months and this one that just started appearing a few days after the rescue is the same size which is smaller than the other ones I’ve seen near the compost pile. Moreover unlike the other ones I’ve seen a few times over the past couple years this one isn’t afraid of me. It won’t let me get too close but it won’t run like crazy head first into the fence and anything else that gets in the way when it sees me approaching.
Last week I took the train back to Penang to do some volunteering at the children’s home during the school holiday but before I left my mountainside home I saw some beautiful reptiles including a reticulated python which is the world’s longest species of snake. The green anaconda is the largest species of snake in terms of weight however reticulated pythons are the longest and can grow up to 10 meters long. It’s awesome to see some of the amazing reptiles I would see in pet shops as a kid in the U.S. just crawling and slithering around my house here in Southeast Asia.
The day before yesterday after another three week stay in Penang I once again returned to Thailand by boat. While waiting for a boat that was headed to Thailand I saw one of the biggest water monitors I have ever seen. I only got a glimpse before it ran underneath the wharf I was standing on so I could only photograph the footprints it left behind. However later when I was on the boat waiting them to finish loading it with goods I was able to get a photo of its head and neck. After over three hours of waiting the boat finally left, unfortunately it didn’t get very far before it was pulled over and boarded by Malaysian customs officers and told to return to port. There I had to wait nearly another hour while the boat captain explained why he didn’t have his papers in order and didn’t pay tax on his cargo. Once the issues were resolved we got back on the boat and I returned to Thailand to sleep in my bed for the first time in three weeks.
This past month there was some terrible smog blanketing much of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately it’s a seasonal problem that occurs during the Indonesian dry season which is around August and September. At this time irresponsible companies burn large swaths of pristine rainforest in order to clear land for palm oil plantations in addition to burning to clear unwanted vegetation in existing plantations. This year was particularly bad and as usual most of the hot spots were in Sumatra and Kalimantan Indonesia. The air started getting really bad the last few days I was in Penang but I was able to escape the smog once I returned to Thailand.
However after a couple weeks of being in the clear the winds shifted north and the smog made it to my house so I decided to go north by train to Chumphon which was just out of the smog’s reach. I stayed there for a few days on a nice quiet beach and waited for the fires to burn out or be put out and for the winds to shift directions so the air at my house could return to normal. As soon as the air became suitable for breathing again I returned home. Hopefully this year’s public outcry will cause the Indonesian government to take this problem more seriously. A few days ago I saw a bird and a spider that could represent the dangerous and pristine air.
I came to Penang nearly 2 weeks ago to visit the kids and get another 30 entry stamp for Thailand. I was only planning on staying for 3 days but once again I was persuaded by the kids to extend my stay. I was also asked by the management of the children’s home to help out with some planning for a fund raising event that they hope will provide adequate funds for relocating. I broke out a tape measure and some old auto-cad skills and drew a detailed floor plan which helped the organizers figure out where everything was going to fit. I also agreed to stick around to help them move everything into place this weekend and after the event successfully concludes I will be going back to my lovely home in rural Thailand.
The House Shitter
I caught a big Tokay gecko yesterday. Unlike smaller house geckos which leave little droppings in exchange for the service of clearing any insects that make it into the house the much larger Tokay gecko takes big shits all over everything. Moreover at night they often make loud calls which can be very annoying if you’re nearby. Most people around here just kill them since it’s easier to kill than capture but I wouldn’t kill such a beautiful creature so I caught him without harming him and released him on the other side of a nearby river where there aren’t any houses for him to get into trouble at. I later celebrated the successful catch and release with some durian.